Sunday, September 30, 2007

Practicing your free motion quilting

I have taught free motion quilting for about 20 years. I meet up with former students and they tell me they have never really caught on to free motion quiting. I ask them how much they have done. The answer is anywhere from "tried once" to "a few times". Do you remember how many times you had to practice multiplication tables or practice when learning cursive writing? I try to convince people that their practice is like homework. To get better at something you have to practice it.
I think the "quilting police" have so many people intimidated that they won't even show their quiting, even if it is good, to someone else for fear of negative comments. I use the sample above and the one below to show that high contrast thread is going to show up and every stitch will show. The one below has matching thread and therefor creates texture rather than each individual stitch being important.
Are all of my stitches perfect? No, no, no. I don't let the quilting police into my home and I will accept my abilities, such as they are. I have been doing free motion work for 48 years. I don't have to prove anything to anyone else. You may look at these samples and say "48 years and she still isn't perfect". Perfection isn't what I am after. I am looking for acceptable and enjoyment.
I have been asked "What are these things?" meaning they are too big for a coaster, too small for a potholder. They are my practice pieces and I keep them around to remind me of ideas for designs,
to just generally brighten my day, to be a sample of certain threads, like the variegated thread in the sample below. I know people who won't create anything at all for fear of negative comments. We all need to support the creative talents of everyone, whatever their level of achievement and accentuate the positive.

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Little Zebra

I made this piece about 14 years ago. The leftovers from the ends of strip sets from "Strips That Sizzle" were laying on my cutting table. Also a piece of the jungle fabric with the half zebra along the selvage was there. I started sewing the little end pieces together and all of a sudden I thought why not have that half zebra sewn between 2 of the strips. Then I started looking for border fabrics that the zebra could be sewn across.This piece is 11 3/4" x 12 3/4" so it was an easy size to handle for intricate machine quilting. I always take it to my machine quilting classes to show the students. The first thing they say is how hard it must have been to quilt something that small. Only after they have tried quilting a large piece do they appreciate how easy it is to do a small piece.
I love the way the zebra seems to be "coming out of the woodwork" as the old saying says. The pieced section is quilted like a jungle with big leaves. Now I know I am taking artistic liberty here because I don't believe zebras live near the jungle. I did tiny little meandering in the red area, now known as stippling, however that word was never used back in the early 1990's, it was always called meandering.
A close up of the jungle quilting, and the funny part of photography, it looks like hand stitching but I have always machine quilted (since 1957). You should be able to click on the pictures for a closer view.

Friday, September 28, 2007

Workbasket magazine

My mother used to get Workbasket magazine when I was a child. She did a lot of crafty things with yarn and raffia, etc. That is her handwriting on the cover marking some pages she wanted to go back to. This is what I chose for my project. I decided to enlarge it and embroider it for the center of a quilt.

A long time ago....

When I was a teenager I spent a lot of time hand embroidering. This is one of the very first quilts I made. I did the embroidery as a teenager and finished the quilt before my first child was born. I really didn't know anything about quilting, since I came from a non-sewing family. My grandma and my great-aunt did hand embroidery so I learned from them.
If I were doing this piece today I would have made her hair a darker color to show up better against the white background.
This is my tracing from the Workbasket magazine on squared paper. I used the method of hand drawn enlarging working from small squared paper to larger squared paper to get a large image. Then I traced the larger image with pencil to the white background fabric.
A close up of my embroidery and quilting.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Many Thanks

Thank you to everyone who took time to comment on my layouts since Sunday. I still don't have a firm idea of how the quilt will look so I will get busy making more blocks, especially the blenders with 2 colors in them (yellow/orange, red/purple, etc.). It makes a huge mess to make crazy pieced blocks so I am reluctant to start them when I know the studio should look kind of neat and picked up. My art quilting group is coming next Monday so I won't work on blocks until at least next Tuesday. Even though they meet in the basement I like the studio to not be too much of a mess as they pass the doorway.

This is an "almost" postcard size piece. It is 4 1/4" x 6 1/4" so I think I was intending to trim the edges and have it be 4" x 6" but I already had the edges finished before I realized what I had done. Now I could come back and "fix it" by trimming off the edges and refinish them, but since I'm not participating in a swap or in any other way trying to push this off as a 4x6 I think I can live with it the way it is.
Building the background is a great way to use up the skinny clean up cuts of fabric. This one is all batiks so they are the same color on both sides and also don't ravel too much while working with them.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Playing with pictures, second post today

color wheel order in rows

Diagonal .............................Double diagonal

Random checkerboard and color sorted checkerboard.
Here are the 5 layouts all in one place.

Last layout

This is the last sample layout of blocks before I make a bunch more. This is a double diagonal. So far I like this one and the random checkerboard the best. It may not end of being either of them but it has been fun playing. This is what is on my basting table. It is a sample for a local sewing store and it is a pattern called "Candy is Dandy" by Allison Quilt Designs. Once again it is promoting the fabrics they have available although I had to add some of my own to get a good variety here.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

And yet another layout, or 2

Still playing! This one has the colors in diagonal rows, not necessarily in color wheel order. A close up of a few blocks.
This one is checkerboard in random order, still alternating warm and cool colors.

And a close up of a few more blocks.

The only thing I am certain of at this point is that I need to make a lot more blocks.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Another layout

My original thought when making these blocks would be to lay them out in color wheel order. However I will have to make a lot more blocks if I want to do that. I will need the ones that are a blend of yellow and orange, and a blend of orange and red, and a blend of red and purple, etc. I have only made 2 orange blocks so this trial layout isn't very successful, but I had to try it anyway. I wouldn't run the colors in straight rows either, I would have them on the diagonal or vertical and weaving in and out of each other. A close up in the "cool" area.
A close up in the "warm" area.

Sunday, September 23, 2007


I'm going to play a little with my rainbow crazy pieced blocks. I wanted to try a checkerboard effect and I will try a blend of the colors too. I will take pictures on this journey so that just in case I make more blocks than I need in one quilt or wallhanging, I will have options to choose from for the rest of the blocks.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Crazy Mobile

That is what I named this piece, "Crazy Mobile". I have each crazy pieced block touching at least one other block so they are attached in a curving string. Because I used all one batik as the background it seemed like a mobile dangling in space when I was done. This piece hangs in the eating area of my remodeled kitchen (that I tackled last Oct). You can see just a sliver of my red wall at the top edge of the picture.
I sewed together all of the blocks left from the batik quilt I showed last Sunday and it is a baby quilt size. I only have one block left after that, to put in the misc. leftovers box.

Friday, September 21, 2007

More Purple and Yellow

This is one of my favorite quilts. I made it while teaching log cabin quilt classes for our local community college. I know it wasn't made before 1992 because it has some of the commemorative Christopher Columbus stripe fabric in the border. I think it was probably finished by 1993 however. It is twin size and is often on a twin bed in my sunshine yellow guest bedroom. I had already made at least a dozen log cabin quilts previously so I had tried most of the traditional layouts. One thing about log cabin though, if you have made one, you probably will want to make another, with the variety of layouts you can use. Here are 2 more pictures of the leftovers from the color study.
These are the leftover ends of strips from cutting the squares and the triangles so I could continue on and make more blocks. My only problem is that I would want to add more new fabrics, not continue with the old ones.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Color Combinations Continued

Continuing on from yesterday, the next time we met we did blue and orange. It is recommended that you use more blue than orange in a combination to make it pleasing. I had to try it both ways though. I don't think I want to make many more in this combination so maybe they will have alternating blocks of some chain type pattern.
The third session was red and green. Trying to not make it say Christmas was my goal. The purple, green, orange was another combination, maybe a triad, with a very soft orange, very strong fuchsia purple and 2 shades of green, one so dark it was almost black.
I still have a lot of triangles and squares already cut and sorted in these tiny drawer units.
I have already pieced some blues and greens in a more random fashion to use up these leftovers.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Experiencing Color Combinations

In January, 2004 I offered my art quilter's group a color study opportunity. We started out with purple and yellow, opposites on the color wheel, and one of my favorite combinations. I asked them to pick a block that they would be making, over and over again, with several different color combinations throughout the study. I emphasized that a simpler block would be a better choice. I chose Sisters Choice. I used as many variations of purple and yellow as I could find in my fabric collection. Some were hand dyed, some commercial, some batiks, some regular fabrics. I used several values of each color. I told them to also make one block of all yellow and one of all purple to experiment with values. I couldn't hold myself back on the scraps from piecing, I had to make a few crazy pieced blocks. I haven't made them into a quilt yet. Maybe I need some more blocks, maybe every other block needs to be a spacer block with a simpler design. After all it has only been 3 3/4 years, lets not rush it now!
In case you think I may run out of quilt pictures to post, these are the boxes containing quilt tops waiting to be quilted. They are stored under my pool table/cutting table in my basement studio area. I am trying to finish as many as possible. I have given away and sold some that I didn't feel the need to finish.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Blast from the past

Do you remember these great little '70's items? This folded card of instructions and pictures is from 1971. Did they make it back with the revival of '70's fashion? The quilt below is the third quilt that hangs on my dining room/gallery wall. I finished it in 1998. I started it in '96 or '97 but couldn't seem to make decisions on it. It was going to go to a gallery in Door County, Wisconsin where I sold my art. I tried to force myself to finish it before a trip up to visit the gallery, but just couldn't get it done. I told the wife of the couple about it and said I would have it ready for the next selling season (they closed for the winter). A few months later I heard she had ovarian cancer and she died that fall. I finished the piece and decided it would still go up there the next spring if the husband was going to continue the gallery. In the spring I waited to hear from
him as I usually did around April. In May my UPS man delivered a package to me and he also knew this couple who ran the gallery. I mentioned to him that I hadn't heard from the husband about when he would be down to pick up our work. The UPS man told me the husband had died of a brain tumor earlier that spring. I'm getting goosebumps and tears as I type this. That day is one of those memories that I can recall with detail, and the shock I felt that they were both gone.

I put a price on this wallhanging and showed it with other pieces to a prospective buyer. She bought a different piece, and I immediately decided I would not sell this piece. This piece has too many memories for me to part with it. They were a lovely couple and the four years of friendship and business dealings are a good memory and this piece constantly reminds me of that good time.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Fall colors

Here is another quilt made from Margaret Miller's "Easy Pieces" technique. I always had to have one in progress to show my classes so I think I made about 7 of them. If I didn't need them for class samples or progress examples I'm sure I wouldn't have made more than 3. Teaching classes the way I did it produced a lot of quilts and wall hangings that I really don't need to own. I donated some to our local hospital and they framed them between 2 sheets of Plexiglas with a metal frame so they wouldn't be a "fire hazard". They were originally refused until one of the gentlemen working there figured out a way to hang them that would follow the rules.

I still own this wall hanging and it reminds me of fall, so I think I will hang it in the hallway to the bedrooms and bathroom. More about stash: I love to pull combinations that work well together (ignore the blue lid to a box) and have one blanket box full of this type of combinations. I go through the fabrics in there once in awhile to make sure I don't have a "winner" hiding in there that would work in several other projects I have in mind.
I haven't come up with the quilt for this group yet, but I have it laying where I see it every day, so maybe soon........